With the rise of exclusive online teaching via WebCT and Blackboard where teacher and student are never in the same room together, we are in a rebirth of a strange form of the 1805 Lancasterian Monitorial System in 2005 and beyond where thousands of students will sit and stare at a flickering image of an instructor standing before them.
This new form of virtual mass education is a financial boon to universities and colleges because they can sell their brand name and hand out degrees without having to pay for infrastructure or heating or dorm facilities.
The upper echelon universities will do really well while the rest of the collegiate world will cower in mediocrity if they are unable to claim a niche in the cyber education. The ether of the internet is the new College Walk. Students and parents will love exclusive online learning because it means the family core can stay together. Imagine getting a Harvard degree from the comfort of your Newark or Compton or Cleveland living room!
The degrees will not be easier to obtain. In fact, many universities will up the required credits ante to new heights for online learners to increase revenue. That increase in credits required to graduate will drop back to traditional terms once the 50% barrier has been crossed where online learners outnumber on campus learners.
Then the tide will switch and those who are exclusively on campus will pay a higher per-credit fee than those who take off-campus courses because herding and corralling bodies takes money and manpower.
Professors will have the ability to teach, via DVD and recorded lectures, well beyond the scope of their lives. Will class sizes be unlimited? How can students get direct feedback on their work from a DVD lecture? Other important issues to resolve immediately are who owns the content of the recorded lectures and who will be paid royalties when the professor delivers a virtual course on DVD?
I am certain the families of Albert Einstein, Francis Fergusson, Moses Hadas and Mark Van Doren all wish their genius dead were still able to earn lecture royalties! Distance Learning is here to stay. Universities can make a lot of money via online courses if they can figure out a way to keep intact the intimacy and the warmth between professor and student during the learning process. It can be done. It has been done. I have done it. The success of the truth is in the teaching.